There's no shortage of diaper reviews, even for the cheap brands. We found hundreds of comments by parents on vendor sites, including Amazon, Viewpoints, Diapers.com, Target, and Walgreens, and on blogs, forums, and parenting sites such as BabyGearLab and Parents.com. As we read through the reviews, it became clear that several budget diaper brands do, in fact, satisfy all the critical criteria. That is, they're absorbent and only rarely leak, and fit most babies comfortably without irritating.
When it's time to make a choice, remember that no two babies are alike. An inexpensive brand that fits a best friend's child perfectly may not work for yours. Finding the right diaper is like finding the right dress or suit -- some styles are more becoming and fit better than others. A little trial and error is often necessary.
Absorption and Leakage
What every parent or caregiver wants is a diaper that keeps a baby dry and doesn't spew its contents, day or night. Not surprisingly, every diaper brand touts its multitude of absorbent layers (often with a proprietary formula) and a design that guards against leaks. If leakage is a recurring problem with any of the best cheap diapers, it's either time to move up to the next size or switch to a different brand.
Comparative testing of 24 different diapers by BabyGearLab included three of our picks: Target's Up & Up, Luvs Ultra Leakguards, and Huggies Snug & Dry. The experts weren't particularly impressed by these budget diapers, which turned in underwhelming performances compared with some pricier options. Tests found that the first two slightly bested the latter on leak protection but lagged in absorbency.
The in-home experience may be different, of course, and hundreds of parents assign positive ratings to all three brands, as well as to Pampers Baby Dry, for absorption and leakage. We did come across a spot of grumbling about overnight protection. (Tip: Try double diapering or a premium brand for sleep time; you can still save money by using budget diapers during the day.) Overall, though, the strong consensus in reviews is that these diapers neatly meet parents' expectations.
Compared with Target's Up & Up, other store brands don't fare so well. Judgments about Walgreens' Well Beginnings are inconsistent, and even the most supportive reviews often mention leakage, which may be due at least in part to the diaper's stiffness and lack of give.
BumGenius 4.0, a cloth diaper alternative, wins accolades from parents who have tried traditional cloth as well as disposables. Many assert BumGenius diapers are far less likely to leak, especially at night (an extra insert helps).
Diaper construction and design only go so far when it comes to preventing leaks. A snug fit is the necessary complement. Here, too, diaper reviews indicate that our top choices meet the standard. Stretchy material, grippy tabs, adjustable waist, elastic around the legs, and various iterations thereof are the primary reasons these diapers please so many parents.
That said, some brands seem better suited for certain body types than others -- the shape is more contoured, perhaps, or offers more rear coverage. Huggies Snug & Dry seems to work particularly well for boys, according to parent reports, while Pampers Baby Dry seems to be a good match for lanky babies. The Luvs Ultra Leakguards line accommodates a range of baby shapes. Up & Up diapers aren't as stretchy as the premium brands, but reviews suggest they're OK for chubbier babies. Walgreens' Well Beginnings, on the other hand, draw barbs from parents of larger children.
The one-size-fits-all design of BumGenius 4.0 should work for babies up through toilet training. Some diaper reviews, however, claim they're too large for newborns and too tight for chubby toddlers. Reviews of earlier versions gripe about elastic that stretched out and laundry tabs that wore out, but the newest model seems to have addressed these issues and also sports more generous sizing.